Is the Apple iPhone 5 everything you were hoping for?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: September 12, 2012

iPhone 5 Apple event

For two and a half very long years, Apple fanatics have been trying to piece together what it is Apple has had up its sleeve for the iPhone 5. Leading up to Apple's announcement, we were asking ourselves the very same question we asked ourselves in October of last year: "What will the iPhone 5 entail?"

Judging by the surplus of rumors and leaked parts, the iPhone 5 was to be a slimmer, taller variant of the iPhone 4S. It was expected to host a larger, 4-inch display, updated internal components, 4G LTE and, of course, iOS 6 with the plethora of new features it brings. And until last week, we still had no idea whether the next-generation iPhone would be called. Like the new iPad, Apple could refer to this year's iPhone as "the new iPhone", dropping the seemingly random numeric scheme, or the they could continue their bizarre sequential naming scheme with "iPhone 5".

On top of all the mystery, something very saddening happened last year following the announcement of the iPhone 4S. Steve Jobs, Apple's fearless and inspirational leader and former CEO, passed away the very next day. Since then, we've been wondering if Apple's new products can live up to the quality of the Jobs-era products. Without Steve Jobs, can Apple execute the same level of efficiency in its products? Can Tim Cook instill the same level of desire in consumers?

Some feel Jobs could have made a $1,000 brick with an Apple logo appealing, a must-have item for any home. All eyes were on Tim Cook to recreate and emulate the same level of charisma and confidence in a product that Jobs could.

On the heels of a somewhat disappointing (yet wildly popular) iPhone 4S, many were on the fence about the iPhone 5. It very well could be a make-or-break for the company in the volatile wireless space.

Not two hours ago, Cook took the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to lay the iPhone 5 rumors to rest once and for all.

First up, as always, were numbers. Apple prides itself in numbers and how well they are doing in virtually every market it's in. The iPad is up from 62 percent market share to 68 percent, despite hundreds of competing tablets having launched. And they hold 91 percent of all web traffic share for tablets, too. There are now over 700,000 applications in App Store and 250,000 of those are for iPads. And through June, over 400 million iOS devices have sold.

All very impressive stuff!

Phil Schiller then hopped on stage to make the iPhone 5 officially official. And, totally to my surprise, Schiller showed us the very device we've seen leaked in images around the Web for months now. The same two-toned metal (aluminum) backing, the taller, thinner design.

"Anyone can make a bigger phone," said Schiller. The iPhone 5 is almost exactly what many were expecting. It hosts a 4-inch display (326 PPI, 1136 x 640 pixel resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio), 7.6mm thick, 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S, 20 percent lighter, all in a strikingly similar chassis.

As far as software goes, the extra vertical pixels call for an extra row of icons. The larger display yields a larger viewing space and, thus, allows you to view more content on a single page. Legacy applications, however, will just center themselves on the display at the old resolution, giving users a black margin at the top and bottom of the app. (That's almost as bad as iPhone apps on an iPad.)

Inside the display, Apple removed the touch sensitive layer and integrated it right into the display for a more responsive touch and crisper display.

And, yes, the iPhone 5 comes with LTE connectivity. All voice and data is implemented in a single radio chip. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint will support LTE on the iPhone five here in the States. (Sorry, folks. No T-Mobile yet.) 240 carriers in 100 countries will support iPhone 5, connectivity will obviously vary.

On the inside, Apple is using the A6 chip for twice the CPU and GPU processing. According to Schiller, it will offer twice the performance (speed) across the board. They have increased the battery to compensate, too, claiming to have surpassed the iPhone 4S battery life.

As for the camera on the iPhone 5, Apple has improved it by adding backside illumination, sapphire lens and a hybrid IR filter. Thanks to the A6, the camera is faster, has better low-light performance, spatial noise reduction, next-gen ISP, etc. Packed with a quick jab at Nokia, Schiller announced built-in panorama mode for the iPhone camera, which can yield a 28-megapixel photo. You can also take photos while shooting video. (A lot of this sounds very familiar, no?)

Apple also improved the audio by packing a smaller speaker and three microphones, one on the front, bottom and back. As we expected, the connector has also changed and is now called Lightning. The cool feature with Lightning is that it's reversible – both sides work the same.

Next up was Scott Forstall to fly iOS 6. Much of what Forstall showed us was stuff we saw back in June at WWDC when iOS 6 was first announced. He also showed off a few more parlor tricks from Siri. Nothing new or groundbreaking here.

As you would expect, the iPhone 5 will come in either black or white. It will come in three capacities at 16GB, 32GB and 64GB for $199, $299 and $399, respectively, with a two-year agreement. Pre-orders begin September 14 and they will ship on September 21. The iPhone 4S 16GB has dropped to $99 with a two-year agreement, and the iPhone 4 8GB is now free.

Okay, so most of you knew I would be disappointed with anything but a totally redesigned, 4.3-inch (or larger) iPhone 5. I don't care about a boost in performance or how thin Apple made the phone. LTE connectivity was a given (something that should have happened last year) and their "redesign" was haphazard. The two-tone back is not appealing, nor is it Apple-esque. And for some, a 4-inch phone is still too small. (I've been using the DROID Incredible 4G LTE off and on for a few days and I'm struggling on such a tiny display.)

But the letdown of the phone is one thing. I anticipated a disappointing iPhone – I've learned to expect that over the years. While I'm sure it will be just as great of a device as the iPhone has been, the iPhone 5 is just as disappointing as the last.

That said, I did not at all expect Apple – of all companies – to have literally no surprises for us. What happened to doubling-down on secrecy, Tim? There was literally no aspect of the iPhone 5 we were unaware of leading into the event. I may have chosen to give Apple the benefit of a doubt, hoping they were a little more careful than to let the Internet spoil the surprise. I was wrong.

I hold my final opinion for when I get the phone in my hand. But I don't like the aspect ratio or look of the iPhone 5. And nothing Apple announced today is terribly impressive. It's not a total letdown, though. But Apple's inability to keep a secret anymore is.

Strangely enough (and I never thought I would say this), I feel more inclined to go Windows Phone this time around. The Lumia 920 is looking mighty fine right about now. So is the Galaxy Note II. There is nothing the iPhone 5 has that I can't live without or that I would immediately give my iPhone 4S or One X up for.

So, what's your take, ladies and gentlemen? Is the iPhone 5 everything you've been hoping and waiting for? Is it a big enough improvement to toss your old iPhone or Android phone? Or will you stick it out for the next one?

Image via gdgt

Products mentioned